Unmatched

Dear Reader,

I’d like to begin with a confession. This post was harder to write than usual. Often, I sit down to write and I’m done in under 30 minutes, but today was more of a process. This is likely because the content of this particular piece feels personal and brimming with emotion.

I don’t disclose this to ask you to judge my writing less harshly. Instead, I tell you this so you know that opening up isn’t always easy for me, but it is always always worth it. So I continue, even when I feel challenged. For I have learned, where there is challenge, there is often growth. And now you can see that growth unfolding on the screens right in front of you. Here we go…

Over the past two months, as I prepared for the Wandering Women’s Retreat I have done a lot of reflection on my past and present relationships with women. One of the present relationships I have focused deeply on recently had the component of distance added to it.

Yesterday morning I dropped a piece of my heart off at SeaTac. My dear friend, Alex, and I pulled ourselves out of bed at 4:45 AM, drove to the airport, half-singing T-Swift and hugged goodbye in the departure’s lane, too tired to really feel it.

And then she was gone.

As I drove back to my parent’s house, half-crying, half-singing T-Swift (once again) I thought not about my present relationship with Alex, but about the earlier part of our friendship.

I met Alex in 2013 in our college dorm. We talked occasionally, crossed paths in mutual friend’s rooms, and when the year was over we ultimately went our separate ways.

We had a class or two together over the years but I never pursued a deeper friendship.

To be honest, I was afraid. I knew it would be a friendship that would challenge me, to open up, to be vulnerable, to be authentic, and that was way too much for me.

My last truly meaningful friendships with women had been early on in high school. At this time, I had a large group of female friends, and an inner circle filled with a few women I loved deeply. I believed these women would be in my big white wedding – when my future was still shaped by my “shoulds.” Regardless, I trusted and cared for these women without restraint.

When I experienced my first big break-up at 16 I found myself without these friends. It is an odd to use the term, but instead of providing love and support these women turned to slut shaming me without grounds. There’s really no other way to say it.

Long story short, it sucked. I felt betrayed. I took the shame they pushed on me and ended up turning toward horny high-school boys for validation (even if most of that validation was in the form of hand holding and sloppy make-outs). It didn’t feel good and I felt really lost and alone.

Point being, the idea of maintaining real and vulnerable relationships with women again – one’s that involved, opening up, sharing personal trauma and also personal joy, etc. – scared the shit out me when I first met Alex.

But during my senior year of college the universe threw a curve ball and Alex popped back into my life in a big way. She would be my replacement for the job I was leaving and I would train her for an entire quarter. And with that, we were stuck (but you know, in the really good PB&J stuck kind of way).

She says it all the time, how we were meant to be in each other’s lives and that she is grateful she applied for that job. Well, truth be told, I am too, more than she’ll ever know.

Because when I reflect on our friendship I see the authenticity, depth, joy and the freedom. Just looking at our drive down to Seattle the evening prior to her departure: I talked endlessly, processed out loud with her support, clarified really important things for myself, laughed, cried, spoke about eating disorders and body image, about mental illness, about the lessons we hoped to teach our mothers, and gratitude for the lesson’s they taught us, about blogging, travel, pleasure and manifestation. Now THAT, that is a true friendship.

What’s better? When I really sit down and think about it, building an authentic friendship with Alex opened the door to diving deeper into my relationships with other women:

My childhood best friend Kaari, who has grown in some of the most beautiful and profound ways I have ever been lucky enough to witness. Who texted me just the other day to remind me how loved and valued I am. Who will always give me her opinion, even if she knows I won’t listen.

My little cousin who has literally read every Empowered Wanderer post I have ever written. Who opened up her home to me when I needed a safe space. And who makes me laugh like no one else, no matter how long we go without seeing each other.

Or the Mom of the family I babysit for, who is so much more, who truly is: family. My big sister. My home. Pure love. My kindred spirit.

A whole tribe of Open Floor dance women who steal my heart on and off the dance floor every week.

My Mom, who I have a more open, honest and beautiful relationship with than ever before. A woman who I can still learn so much from, and also teach, all at the same time.

My GG, who is far ahead of me on her wandering journey and says I inspire her. While in reality, it’s the other way around.

Jade, Julia and Jaime who all individually came into my life. Each so suddenly and without warning. And each of whom, without restraint, without hesitation, blessed my life with this immeasurable joy and deep connection so many people are unable to radiate. And they each do so with such ease and beauty.

Each woman who has shared the retreat and Empowered Wanderer with their own tribes without request – unbelievable love and support is felt.

And finally, most recently, Brooke. A woman I welcomed into my heart so effortlessly. As if she had always been there; my mirror image, my spirit animal, my soul sister. How my heart is filled with love and gratitude for you.

All these deepened and newly cultivated relationships because of one relationship I ran from for so long, and finally gave into. And thank god I did, because it showed me how to sink into a beauty unmatched by other types of friendships.

So, this one’s for you Alex. I love you, I am thankful for you. And I can’t wait for all the damn walls we will break down, mountains we will climb, and memories we will collect being the wild women we were meant to be.

May we all welcome the challenge into our lives, the friendships that scare us, the blog posts that stretch us, or the treks that feel too daunting to take on. May we may we rush toward them full speed with arms open, or inch toward them with our hands over our eyes. No matter how we do it, fast, slow, scared, or open, all that matters is we do it. Because, damn the growth, the beauty and the love that emerges is unmatched!

 

With love for you all,

Annalise

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